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MNNCIJ condemns military threats on journalist

The MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ) wishes to strongly condemn acts of threats that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) posed to the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express journalist, Pascalinah Kabi.

Ms Kabi is also a board member for MNNCIJ.

MNNCIJ is a non-profit and independent entity registered under the laws of Lesotho to cultivate and promote investigative journalism. This the Centre does without fear or favour to instil accountability to those in power and to promote democracy.

The Centre, therefore, has an obligation to defend factual journalism in Lesotho.

We have learned with shock the contents of a letter that the LDF Public Affairs Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mashili Mashili addressed to Ms Kabi dated December 5, 2018.

While MNNCIJ cannot intercede and argue merits of the letter, we were deeply perturbed by elements of threats in the letter, which the Centre finds intimidating to Ms Kabi and indicative that she should cease doing her duty.

The letter does not only threaten Ms Kabi, but the rest of the journalism fraternity in Lesotho.

The Centre found the following lines in the letter to be extremely harsh and posing direct threat to Ms Kabi against doing her job:

  • “While we appreciated and respect the role of media in a democracy, we, as LDF PAO, would like to put it to you that this time around you chose to infiltrate the LDF with the aim to spy on it while you knew very well the proper channels all the journalists normally follow when enquiring about issues pertaining to the LDF.
  •  “And for your information, like all other militaries of the world or any other state security agencies, we don’t tolerate spying or spies shrouded in media cloaks.
  • “We have solid grounds to suspect that what you have done in concert with the people you colluded with… is tantamount to serious breach of the laws governing the security of this country.
  • “Furthermore, we would like to seize this opportunity to put to you that the LDF Command is subject to the civil authority (which is the Government of the day). And that being the case, the latter has given the LDF Command a clear mandate: Unite the LDF personnel and lead them under a unified Command structure. That is why we feel duty bound to put it in no uncertain terms that anyone – individually or in any form of groupings – who dare to torpedo the LDF Command’s initiatives to accomplish that mandate, the LDF will not take that laying down.
  • “What you have committed in concert with those who gave you that document constitute acts endangering security of this country. Put in simpler terms, it is illegal to have the document in question in your possession, and you were fully aware that the disclosure of its contents put the cohesion of the Defence Force at peril and make it fail in the discharge of its mandate to the nation. The LDF as a legal institution of the state will do everything in its power to establish how it ended up in your hands.
  • “Furthermore, elsewhere in an article featured in Lesotho Times’ sister tabloid, Sunday Express, you referred to some members of the LDF as “sycophants”. Given the spirit of the mandate given to the LDF Command by the civil authority, do you consider it a good thing to use that kind of language in reference to members of the LDF?…
  • “We consider what you say a calculated attempt to foment hatred and create chaotic situation in the LDF – perhaps with the aim to render Lesotho a failed state.
  • “For that matter, one is obliged to pose these pertinent questions: Is your approach to security related issues a good one at this point in time when the Basotho are uniting to find a lasting solution to their perennial challenges? What signal does this send to the regional and international communities who are not just wishing the Basotho nation well but are also throwing their unwavering support behind these reforms processes?
  • “We understand that the editorial and staff at your paper are hurting as a result of what happened to your editor some time ago. But the stance which the paper has adopted against the LDF does no justice to its Command and the entire Basotho nation. It is a common cause that there is a case before the courts of law. Why not await the courts to dispense justice?
  • “We urge you not to act as if you will be spared the brunt of the chaotic situation you are fomenting”.

MNNCIJ believes there was a better way to communicate with Ms Kabi than to pose threats quoted above.

The Centre understands that Ms Kabi was reasonable, responsible and ethical enough to have approached the very office of the LDF Public Affairs Officer to inquire about the document in contention. The same office admits to have discussed the document with Ms Kabi.

It would make sense to the Centre if Ms Kabi had not communicated the document at all with the LDF, or if the latter challenged veracity of the document and not attack Ms Kabi personally as a journalist.

MNNCIJ is concerned by the continued intimidations that security sector poses to the media in Lesotho. The right to freedom of expression remains threatened and journalists stay victims of malpractice by elements of the military. Allegations of torture and other ill-treatments remain unresolved and the Right to Freedom of Expression severely restricted.

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